In this article, Tristan Angulo, Thomas Gibbons and Alex Patt discuss some of the popular topics surrounding the Chicago Blackhawks.
1. What player do you want to Blackhawks to add in free agency?
Thomas Gibbons: I think we can all agree the Blackhawks need to focus on defense this summer. Even though Stan Bowman re-signed Erik Gustafsson and Jan Rutta, if they have the opportunity to add a top-four defeseman they have to pursue it.
One target could be New York Islander D Calvin de Haan. Haan, 26, played in all 82 games last season and blocked 190 shots, good for fourth among defeseman in the league. He has been out since mid-December of this season with a back injury.
The Blackhawks need that shot blocker they can rely on. Niklas Hjalmarsson was that guy for so many years and you know he was going to give up his body to get in front of shots. I am not too concerned on big offensive numbers for defenseman. Hjalmarsson’s career high in points, 26, came during the 2013-14 season. But he was a pivotal part to the Blackhawks Stanley Cup runs and a leader on the blue line. If the salary cap goes up like it is projected to do, the Blackhawks could be in a great position to add a guy like de Haan.
Tristan Angulo: John Carlson. For defensemen that are available on July 1st, he’s the crown jewel. He’s young (28), talented on the power play (30 of his current 63 points came from the man advantage), and, if the Capitals don’t win it all this year, he will be hungry, maybe hungry enough to go to another contender.
But the Capitals will most likely find the money to re-sign him. So Calvin de Haan of the Islanders will be the next best thing. Other than those two, all the other d-men available are on the wrong side of 30.
Alex Patt: They’ll definitely go after some guys in free agency, especially since they will have some wiggle-room with cap space. Many of the free agent defenseman are older, and they want to get someone who still has plenty left in the tank. Probably nobody will be franchise-changing, but consider a guy like John Carlson who is 28 and can help out a defensive unit.
2. Given Crawford’s status this season, are you worried about his Long term health and career?
TG: Of course I am. Blackhawks fans and the media have really not been given an exact diagnosis for Corey Crawford. It was reported it was vertigo but then Bowman told the media a few days later it may be post concussion symptoms. Crawford has not played since December 23rd.
Crawford has been one of the best goalies in the league the past decade, winning two Stanley Cups and most recently going 32-18 last season. Phenomenal showing.
If the Blackhawks want to be back in the playoff picture next season. Crawford has to be 100% healthy. He is so important to this team and we saw that first hand this season with his departure to injured reserve.
Crawford is the key to keeping the championship window from closing. That is all.
TA: Corey Crawford keeps me up at night. In the event that the Blackhawks d-corps remain as porous as this year, it will be up to the Crow again to stand on his head and carry this team on some nights. The fact that the regular season is almost over and we still have no concrete idea as to the real nature of his season-ending injury does not lend me any confidence.
AP: Yes. We really have no idea what exactly is wrong with him or how serious it is. Until we get more information, we should be somewhat concerned.
3. Should the Blackhawks draft two defenseman in the first round?
TG: I think so. The Blackhawks may miss out on Rsamus Dahlin, who some are calling the next Victor Hedman. But Bowman could land Adam Boqvist, who is the next best prospect to man the blue line.
When you look to the bottom of the first round, the Blackhawks could cash in on another impactful defeseman. K’Andre Miller, 6′ 3″ , 205lb is committed to Wisconsin but he would fit the Blackhawks defense overhaul moving forward. I am not saying Bowman should completely ignore drafting forwards, but you need defemseman in your system more than ever with Keith and Seabrook possibly on the decline.
TA: You always pick the best player, no matter the position.
That being said, this is a DEEP draft, and wherever the Hawks may fall in the top 10, they have the opportunity to draft a d-man that may be ready in a year, may be two. As of right now, five defensemen are projected to go in the top 10. After that, 10 other defensemen are projected to go in the top 31.
So, yes, they should.
AP: At least use their own first-round pick for once since it will be a top-10 pick. As far as the Nashville pick, probably just go for best player available.